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Experts Find Key to Healthy Burgers: It's All in the Flip

November 19, 2000|From Associated Press

LIVERMORE, Calif. — New research shows that turning hamburger patties once every minute cuts down on the formation of cancer-causing agents while ensuring the demise of such harmful bacteria as E. coli.

The burger findings, published earlier this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, were the result of work by researchers at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, where scientists design and develop nuclear weapons.

"It is the well-done meat that is the problem, but yet the general public is always hearing that you need to cook foods enough to kill bacteria," researcher Mark Knize said.

It is a gentle balance between overcooked and just right, he said. Meat has to be cooked through to make sure harmful bacteria are killed, but not be so well done that cancer-causing chemicals are produced.

The lab's food-mutagen team found that the optimal temperature for burger cooking is 320 degrees. Eight to nine minutes under those conditions should result in the best burger, the research found, but flipping is the key.

Hundreds of chemicals are created when meat is cooked. Some chemicals create the smells and tastes that have made hamburgers a dietary staple for many Americans. But cancer-causing chemicals called heterocyclic amines also are produced that can be harmful.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: http://www.llnl.gov/llnl/

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